Guthrie and Seeger: Folk and the Labor Movement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BY // AZA EVANS-TOWNSEND

This script is originally from Aza’s show, Upward. Listen in on Thursdays from 5-6 pm EST on gwradio.com.

Woodrow Wilson Guthrie

Born in Oklahoma in 1912, Woody Guthrie would become one of the most significant figures in American folk music. His songs, notably “This Land is Your Land”, inspire people both musically and politically. He is known for his guitar, on which he inscribed “This Machine Kills Fascists.”

Woody Guthrie with his guitar

 

His childhood in Oklahoma was not easy. His father, Charles, was destroyed by the country’s economic turmoil; it is also known he had ties with the KKK. Woody’s sister Clara died in a fire at a young age, and his mentally ill mother Nora would be institutionalized after setting her sleeping husband on fire (some claim she was responsible for the fire that killed her daughter Clara). His mother passed away when Guthrie was 14, and in an attempt to pay off his debt, Charles decided he and Woody would move to Texas. 

Guthrie started to learn folk and blues in his teenage years. He got married when he was 19 to Mary Jennings, with whom he had three kids. He remarried and divorced two more times, ending up with eight kids. He has been described as an absent father, as he was largely on the road and didn’t let his family tie him down. 

Guthrie was living in the 1930s depression and the time of the Dust Bowl –  a period of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies. Like many others displaced during this time, Woody headed to California. The exact number of Dust Bowl refugees remains a matter of debate, but some estimate there were as many as 400,000 individuals displaced. People took the old US Highway 66, packing themselves into beat-up old cars (called jalopies) with whatever possessions they could fit. As the number of migrants grew, there were efforts to prevent more people from crossing the western borders. Many who couldn’t prove they had sufficient funds to be self-supportive were turned away. Those who did get across traveled between farm fields trying to get work, and were treated and referred to as “dirty” and “ignorant”. Some Californians even complained that the camps set up by the government to house refugees were a health threat. One camp, with around 1,500 people, was burnt down. 

Guthrie wrote many songs about the Dust Bowl and the displacement of people caused by it. One song called “Do Re Mi” focuses on the problems faced by migrants at this time. Another called, “Dust Bowl Refugee” in which he says “We ramble and we roam, and the highway that’s our home.”

His time in California was marked by a growing reputation and a radio show on which he sang hillbilly songs, with his co-host Maxine Crissman, nicknamed Lefty Lou. His radio show eventually got banned as it promoted communist ideals, so he moved to New York City.

Pete Seeger on the left, Woody Guthrie on the right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In New York, he hosted a radio show where he discussed the music of the South, and then performed some classic folk songs. This is where he met Pete Seeger – who was hired to join his performances on multiple occasions. Guthrie was so impressed with Seeger he decided to become a mentor to him, and they became good friends. 

One interesting detail about Guthrie’s time in New York is that in 1950, Woody Guthrie signed a lease for an apartment in Brooklyn; his landlord was Fred C. Trump, Former President Donald J. Trump’s father. This is known because Guthrie wrote a song called “Old Man Trump” in which he discussed Fred Trump’s racist nature. He also reworked an old song he wrote called “Ain’t Got No Home” to be about the moral struggle of living in an affordable housing complex where black citizens aren’t allowed. Fred Trump had many informal and formal accusations of racism, reaching their peak in the 1970s when the US Department of Justice brought a claim against Trump and his son, Donald, for racist housing practices. However, Fred Trump wasn’t acting on his own when he refused to rent property to people of color. In the 1950s, the FHA had a set of guidelines for avoiding “inharmonious uses of housing”, used to justify denying black Americans homes in white neighborhoods. While Woody wrote the lyrics, it was sung by multiple different artists.

 

 

 

The Almanac Singers; Guthrie in the middle and Seeger on the bottom right

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After New York, Guthrie took off again. Hitching and performing around the country until he was invited by Seeger to join a band he was forming called “The Almanac Singers”. He agreed, and the band created songs with a message of freedom and justice. They were anti-war, anti-racist, and pro-union. Unfortunately, it disbanded after a few years of performing, and Seeger and some others formed a new band called “The Weavers”, without Guthrie. Around this time, WWII was taking place, Guthrie joined and served in the US Army and did three tours with the Merchant Marines, twice getting torpedoed while in active service, although he never saw combat himself. He also wrote hundreds of anti-Hitler wartime songs, one of the most famous being “Tear the Fascists Down” with a clear, simple message about the need for unity.

The rest of Guthrie’s life was quite tragic. One of his daughters died in a fire, like his own sister. He got divorced from his second wife, then his third, and his genetic Huntington’s disease led to his final years being spent in a hospital. However, he was supported by his family and visited by his friends like Pete Seeger. Many artists look up to Guthrie, Bob Dylan even visited him in the hospital, but there are many other artists who have cited him as an inspiration. Notably Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen, and Joe Strummer.

Pete Seeger

 

As mentioned, Pete Seeger was a friend and mentee of Guthrie. However, Seeger’s career stands on its own and was integral in folk music’s history.

The Weavers; Seeger on the top left

In the 1940s, when he co-founded The Weavers, they surprised everyone by becoming the first group to bring folk music to the pop charts. Ultimately, the band became blacklisted.

Like Guthrie, Seeger painted a message around the rim of his instrument of choice, the banjo. It read: “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.” Seeger kept this message while he played with Guthrie, during the Civil Rights and anti-war organizing protests of the 50s and 60s, and all the way into the 21st century at Occupy Wall Street in Manhattan in 2011.

He spent part of his life writing and collecting labor union protest songs, one of the most famous was “Which Side Are You On?”. The song was originally written by a woman named Florence Reece, the wife of a union organizer involved in the Harlan County War.  

Pete Seeger with his banjo

 

The Harlan County War was a series of mining-related incidents in Kentucky in the 1930s, involving executions, bombings, and strikes as the coal miners and union organizers demanded better wages and working conditions. It lasted nearly a decade, and before it ended, many were killed. Seeger learned the song in 1940 and recorded it with the Almanac Singers. Their version was able to attract a much wider audience, and while Florence Reece did eventually record a version in the 2010s, Seeger’s version is known widely, and the combination of voices of the Almanac Singers makes the song feel especially powerful.

A similar song I recommend is “Solidarity Forever.” Historically used as a song at miners’ strikes, it continues to be a song of importance in moments of protest.

One of Seeger’s songs, “Deportees”, which was written by Guthrie, focuses on a tragic plane crash in 1948 which killed 28 illegal immigrants. It was one of the more solemn songs that Guthrie wrote, and the lyrics talk about the attitudes towards them and the fact that in the reporting of the story the individuals were left nameless, only being referred to as “Deportees”.

The last song I want to mention, “John Brown’s Body”, is one of Pete Seeger’s most famous covers. The origins of the lyrics are complicated. Many have claimed credit for different verses but the song is a US marching song about the abolitionist John Brown and was popular amongst the Union during the American Civil War. 

 

Pete Seeger

 

 

 

 

 

The tune is said to have come from an American camp meeting, religious meetings in which folk hymns were sung. According to an 1889 account, some union soldiers wrote the lyrics, referring both to the famous John Brown and as a joke, their Sergeant who was named John Brown.

I highly recommend going through both Guthrie and Seeger’s discography. These artists carry so much history, and I have only touched the surface of the era they represent. 

Review: “Happiest Season”

The holiday season has come and gone, but I still have something to say about “Happiest Season.”

BY // HANNAH KRANTZ

Like many young queer people, I was excited and optimistic to hear about Netflix’s new gay Christmas movie “Happiest Season.” I never expected it to be hailed as an intersectional piece of representation– especially after watching the trailer, which was full of stereotypes and predictable holiday cliches — but at the very least, I expected to see a happy lesbian couple doing cute holiday stuff together. Movies centered around queer people are so often filled with suffering due to lack of acceptance or internalized homophobia that I, a Jew, was genuinely excited to see a silly little Christmas movie about lesbians that was sure to have a happy ending. 

At the very least, I reasoned, I’d get to see Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza in suits. As it turns out, that was one of the few things I actually enjoyed from this film. I had to overlook a lot more than the expected reliance on stereotypes, fake snow and cookie-cutter plot points to enjoy the movie, or even root for the happiness of a main character.

From the start, our protagonists don’t make a very realistic queer couple. Abby, played by Kristen Stewart, has been comfortably out as gay since high school. Harper, played by Mackenzie Davis, plans to take Abby home for the holidays to meet her family and teach her the magic of Christmas. Abby plans to propose to Harper. All good, expected Christmas-romcom fun. Suddenly, when they’re 10 minutes away from Harper’s childhood home, Harper pulls over and confesses that she’s been lying to Abby for months– she never actually came out to her parents, and Abby has to pretend to be her roommate, leaving Abby no choice but to go back in the closet. We then learn that Harper told Abby almost a year ago that she had come out to her family, told them about her relationship, and that they were all accepting. Abby confesses that it was all a lie, that she never came out, and her family doesn’t even know Harper exists.

This huge lack of communication makes absolutely no sense for any realistic long-term gay relationship. No matter how easy someone’s personal coming out story may be, every LGBT+ person knows how terrifying, life-changing, and potentially traumatizing coming out can be. Part of the love and communication shared between queer people is understanding this. Before Harper’s fake coming out, the two must have had many conversations about being gay and self-acceptance, making it all the more unrealistic for Harper to keep this information from Abby until the very last second. No matter how scared she was, this was a horrible move. 

This level of dishonesty and deceit about such a delicate queer topic is not the kind of dilemma you can drop into the Couple Has A Problem part of a rom-com formula. It just proves right off the bat that their relationship isn’t very strong.

Harper becomes a worse and worse girlfriend as the movie progresses, and it becomes harder to root for her happiness, much less relate to her as LGBT representation. Some of her actions seem justified as she pretends to be straight in front of her family: she sleeps in a different room than Abby, she allows her mom to go on and on about setting her up with her high school boyfriend, she doesn’t stick by Abby’s side as they go about their holiday errands. Some of her actions, however, just make her look like a bad girlfriend: she continues not to communicate with Abby, ignores her to hang out with her hometown friends, and stays with her aforementioned high school boyfriend at a bar all night.

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD

My real dissatisfaction with “Happiest Season” came from the climax of the plot and the way it was resolved. The movie sticks hard to its silly, even slapstick comedic tone throughout, making it easy for a heterosexual audience to breeze past the genuinely traumatic scenes and feel satisfied by a happy ending. However, as a queer person, watching Harper get outed by her sister, hearing her swear she was straight and that Abby was just her roommate while Abby sat and watched, and then seeing Harper’s father scowl in disappointment when he eventually finds out Harper actually is gay… I couldn’t just laugh and move on. 

One of my friends declared the film’s ending felt like “trauma porn.” Harper’s outing is the culmination of a fight she’s been having with her sister. Their sibling rivalry quickly takes a turn from silly and lighthearted to truly horrible when Harper’s sister catches her kissing Abby and then uses it against her in an explosive argument during the family Christmas party in front of dozens of people. I cannot overstate how absolutely terrifying that is. That is the kind of thing that changes the trust in a sibling relationship forever. However, the moment isn’t even highlighted as the scene quickly divulges back into slapstick silliness with Harper physically fighting both of her sisters at once. As I watched three grown women roll on top of each other, Christmas tree twinkling, guests watching in shock, I wondered: how on earth can this be resolved in the last 20 minutes of this movie?

The comedic atmosphere of this movie supports the cookie-cutter formula of “family goes through trouble and stress, but it’s all resolved because we’re together on the holidays.” Using this formula but swapping out the trouble and stress for being shoved back into the closet against your will or being outed by someone you thought you could trust doesn’t make for lighthearted, easily-resolved holiday cheer. “Happiest Season” reminds us that queer love stories don’t easily fit into a mold created for heterosexual couples. 

But hey. Kristen Stewart and Aubrey Plaza in suits.

Comfort Movies and Guilty Pleasures

BY // SOFIA GUZMAN

When someone asks about your favorite movies, you are most likely to say: “Oh, I just love Inception and The Godfather!” I do this as well; a few of my favorite movies are The Double Life of Veronique, The Social Network, and Mommy. I have made two different lists for movies I enjoy: “Favorites” and the other “Comfort Movies.” Why don’t I just pile them all together? Because I’m embarrassed! No one will take you seriously when you say that Disney’s Ice Princess is a cinematic masterpiece. I have lost track of how many times I have watched that movie, but it is something that you can watch any time you are feeling blue or just ecstatic. I would consider most of my comfort movies guilty pleasures, and most people probably would as well. Familiarity and nostalgia should not be something to feel ashamed of; there is a reason you like it so much, even if it’s not considered one of the best movies of all time. 

What exactly makes a comfort movie? Out of curiosity, I asked a few people what their choices were, and they responded with films such as Ratatouille, Meet the Robinsons, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and The Incredibles. Knowing what will happen makes people feel safe; it feels like holding your childhood teddy bear, especially since most times these movies are watched right before going to bed (at least in my case). They are also almost always tied to when you watched them when you were younger and it made some sort of impact on you. It could have changed your perspective or inspired you in some way! I remember when I watched Jump In! I begged my parents to buy me a jump rope, and when I finally got it, I was constantly jumping in front of my apartment in my old neighborhood. Another comfort movie of mine is Mamma Mia!, I remember going to the theater in 2008 not knowing what I was going to watch and being in complete awe when I saw the big screen. I recognized the songs because I would watch a DVD full of ABBA music videos every time I was picked up from preschool. I had no idea that there was already a musical based on my favorite songs. Sometimes, I randomly watch clips from the movie to feel better, it has a big place in my heart! 

Comfort movies are always there to give you a hug when you are having a bad day. Go relive that one time you came home from school and watched Toy Story while eating a huge bowl of ice cream! Don’t be ashamed of telling people one of your favorite movies is Sky High, chances are they have a Gnomeo and Juliet poster in their bedroom.

“Bake With Me”: Make or Bake this Outbreak

BY // EMILY VENEZKY

I’m excited to announce that on Thursday, September 10th at 7 pm I will be hosting WRGW’s first Welcome Week 2020 event, “Bake with Me” at this link. I will be making a simple peach pie and I’m including the recipe here so anyone can buy the ingredients and make their own delicious pie at home with me.

The best way to celebrate the end of summer is to bake with some seasonal fruit! I feel like I wait all year long to get my hands on stone fruit, especially because they bake so well when they are ripe.

I bought my peaches at the Dupont Circle Farmers Market, where there are lots of vendors selling the perfect box of peaches for this recipe. Most vendors are even kind enough to feel how ripe the peaches are for you so you can maintain social distancing. It’s important to have very ripe peaches for this recipe!

A note about the crust for this recipe, you have to make it the night before or at least a few hours before. It’s an easy recipe but if you don’t have the time to make the crust a store-bought version works really well here too!

For the “Bake with Me” event, I recommend either having your homemade crust in the fridge for a few hours before we start or pulling out a store-bought crust when we get to the pie building part!

I hope to see some friendly faces at the “Bake with Me” event, don’t be afraid to join in to talk about WRGW and remote broadcasting this year if you don’t feel like baking a pie!


Simple Peach Pie

Crust Ingredients

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

⅔ cup cold butter

¼ cup ice water

Pie Filling Ingredients

5-6 peaches, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

1 to 1 ¼ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

Sprinkling of nutmeg

A little water for closing the crusts

 

Crust Steps (must do a few hours before making pie!)

  1. Mix the flour and salt. Then add the butter, cut up into 2-inch pieces. Use a pastry cutter/dough blender to cut in the butter, or just work in the butter with your fingers. It should make a crumbly mixture, similar to thick sand.
  2. Mix in ice water, a couple of tablespoons at a time, with a fork until the dough sticks together. Pat it together, do not overhandle.
  3. Shape into two flattened discs, wrap in wax paper (or reusable beeswax paper if you have it), and refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

 Pie Steps

  1. Mix peach slices with lemon juice. Add sugar and flour and mix.
  2. Roll out the first pastry disc (or store-bought pie dough) and place in a 9-inch pie plate, use your fingers to make the dough lie flat against the pan.
  3. Add the peach filling, sprinkle a little nutmeg over the top.
  4. Roll out the second disc (or store-bought pie dough). Cuts slits in a decorative pattern, about 3 to 5 slits in the middle of the circle.
  5. Place the second circle of pastry on top of the filling, wet the bottom dough crust with cold water. Seal up the pie by pinching the bottom and top edges together, all around the pie. Cut off any excess pastry.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn down the temp to 375 degrees and cook until the peaches bubble and the pastry is golden about 45 minutes. Serve slightly warm! 

B-Roll Reviews: I Know This Much is True

BY // GRAHAM STEINBERG

I Know This Much is True is a hauntingly beautiful story about unwitting brotherhood beyond all measure and the moral decay of American society as a result of the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Derek Cianfrance continues to prove his capability to bring the most heart-wrenching stories to life and Jody Lee Lipes (the cinematographer who lept onto the scene with Manchester by the Sea) gives an intimate eye to compliment his direction with tight, in-your-face shots. But the real knockout is obviously Mark Ruffalo who plays the contrasting personalities of the Birdsey brothers better than the two sides of the Hulk. It’s hard to even realize they are one person and the chemistry he builds inside himself makes for a spectacular performance.

Filmgoers are often critical of Cianfrance (as indicated by the mixed reception for his 2012 film The Place Beyond the Pines, a film I consider to be one of the finest experiments with linear narrative) for making films that contain too much dread without redemption. And while I’ll admit having trouble with getting through Blue Valentine, the drama in his films never feels as though it exists purely for the shock. The darkness he formulates is because it is a dark story. It is always truthful and always earned. In addition, his miniseries continues to showcase his ability to deconstruct narrative conventions and rebuild them for the purpose of telling a complete story. 

I look forward to seeing how I Know This Much is True continues in the coming weeks.

Make or Bake this Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // LIZ SUN

Hey friends! Hope you’re all surviving out there and doing what you can to stay safe and healthy. But quarantine szn doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself from time to time. As an AVID dessert lover, my craving for a cold, creamy treat just couldn’t be stifled any longer. And what better to time indulge than this past weekend, when my family and I celebrated Mother’s Day!

Although my mom has a slight lactose intolerance, she requested I make this dessert as my gift to her. I’ve made a few cheesecakes before, and although they’ve all come out well, this one definitely tops them all. I had never tried the bain-marie style before, knowing that it’s a pain to assemble. I was never quite sure why adding in the extra work and fuss made any difference. But believe me when I say, it’s so worth it. It’s got the taste and texture of an authentic cheesecake. The kind you order mid-finals week when the late nights of studying finally push you enough to pay for a $13 uber eats delivery of one measly slice from the Cheesecake Factory (my bank account has taken a few dubious and petty expenses). The kind that will stop your mother from taking one bite until she’s taken a snapshot of it at every possible angle in front of both a glass of wine and a bouquet of flowers. But when she finally does so, her reaction to delighted taste buds lets you know you’ve done this Mother’s Day right.


White Chocolate Blueberry Cheesecake

 

Ingredients:

Graham Cracker Crust

2 cups of graham crackers (approximately two sleeves)

¼ cup granulated sugar

¼ teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Cheesecake Filling

(3) 8 oz packages of cream cheese, at room temp

1 cup greek yogurt, at room temp (feel free to use any flavor, such as vanilla or honey)

3 eggs and

2 egg yolks, at room temp

½ cup granulated sugar

1½ tablespoons of all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4½ tablespoons lemon juice

8 oz white chocolate, melted but slightly cooled

2 cups blueberries

Berries to garnish

Note: This recipe requires you to use a water bath. Any baking pan or iron skillet/pot that is deep enough to submerge half of the cake pan in water will work. This method, known as “bain-marie,” is commonly used to help insulate the entire cheesecake and result in a silky smooth, even bake.

Steps:

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position. Preheat the oven to 325 F. Wrap a 9” springform cake pan with multiple layers of aluminum foil around the outside, to prevent water from seeping through to the crust. (Make sure to test the pan in your water bath before placing the oven)

For the crust:

1. Blend the graham crackers, sugar, and salt in a food processor. Transfer the crumb mixture to a large bowl. Add the melted butter and stir well to combine.

2. Butter the springform pan. Press the crumb mixture into the pan evenly along the bottom and sides.

3. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.

For the filling:

1. Blend the cream cheese and greek yogurt in a large bowl, until completely smooth. Add in the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar and mix until well combined.

Add in the flour and vanilla and gently mix (do not overmix). Using a spatula, fold in 1½ tablespoons of lemon juice and white chocolate.

2. To make the blueberry swirl puree, heat the blueberries and the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice in a small saucepan. Mash the blueberries and cook over medium heat. When the puree starts to boil, turn down the heat to simmer and let it reduce for about 10 minutes. Strain the puree and discard the pulp (or save it to make a wonderful toast spread, yum!) Let the remaining blueberry juice cool before use.

3. Pour half of the filling into the cake pan, smoothing the top with a spatula. Pour half of the blueberry juice into the remaining filling and mix, creating a slight blue-ish purple tinge. Pour the remaining filling into the pan. Use the remaining blueberry juice to create designs on the top of the cheesecake. This can be done by dropping dollops of blueberry juice and gently swirling with a toothpick or fork.

4. Place the springform pan into the larger baking pan, and then move both pans into the oven. Fill the larger baking pan with enough boiling water to reach about halfway up the cheesecake.

5. Bake for 1 hour and 30 minutes. Then turn off the oven and let the cheesecake sit for another 45 minutes inside the oven with the door shut.

6. Remove from the oven and gently run a knife around the edge of the cake to loosen the crust from the pan. Allow the cheesecake to cool for at least 30 minutes before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating for at least 6 hours/overnight.

7. When ready to eat, garnish with fresh berries and whipped cream, then serve!

Code 8: A Confusing Surge

BY // MAX GREENHALGH

A few days ago, I saw a project that I had never heard of in the Netflix Top 10 for movies, and it had apparently been there for at least a few days. I generally enjoy some good dystopian media (my favorite book of all time is 1984), so when I saw Netflix’s plot description of a film combining that with superhero films, I was in. 98 minutes later, I was flabbergasted, as I read reviews calling the film a “refreshing take on the superhero genre” and constructed around “novel circumstances.” Are you kidding me? Maybe I’m losing my mind a month into this new post-COVID-19 lifestyle, but I don’t see it. While not all aspects of the film disappoint, it follows a cookie-cutter formula while desperately attempting to make a strong political statement in order to gain some clout.

One thing I cannot fault the film for is its ambition. To make something this professional looking with primarily TV and brand new talent both in front of and behind the camera is remarkable. Code 8 comes from grounded roots, as it started out as a 2016 short film written and directed by Jeff Chan. With the aid of the performances and celebrity status of cousins Robbie and Stephen Amell (best known for their work in the CW Arrowverse as Firestorm and Green Arrow, respectively), its Indiegogo fundraiser raised $2.4 million for production in just 30 days. Despite financial limitations being fairly obvious in some special effects, it is clear that these funds were generally spent wisely. As a frequent consumer of high budget, mainstream movies, it is difficult for me to imagine how this minuscule budget paid for the impressive looking hovercrafts and robots featured on-screen. In the final cut, Robbie and Stephen star as superhumans, who are discriminated against in this film’s universe. Unfortunately, this is where the problems begin.

The ambition of the movie begins to backfire at this point because it struggles to pick what social message it wants to push. At first, it seems pretty clear cut that those with superheroes are being compared to undocumented immigrants, as they struggle to find honest work outside of construction and wait on the side of the road to be picked up by foremen for their odd jobs. Pushing the point further, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a more on-the-nose political reference than this quote, found in the opening news montage (another sign of a GREAT movie) than this one: “I never said I wouldn’t hire a powered person. I said I would never hire an unregistered powered person.” Heavy-handed or not, it looks like we are at least settling on a main message to really dive into.

However, instead of fleshing out this angle, the movie takes detours into other currently relevant political issues, in an attempt to touch them all. A drug called Psyche is clearly supposed to be an opioid stand-in, but the film never takes the time to show or explain any negative effects of the drug. The consequences of an enhanced surveillance state seem omnipresent at some moments, but wanted criminals can then walk around in broad daylight in a heavily urbanized area, talking loudly about their plans to commit more crimes (I’m not exaggerating, this actually happens) with zero consequences. Because it wastes time on these and other brief allusions to sociopolitical themes, no single message has a satisfying arc.

The script, on the other hand, seems to be the very opposite of ambitious. This movie contains an absurd amount of nonsensical plot points, but I’ll just mention a few easily observable in the first 20 minutes. The film’s police force somehow “detect” superpower use in a construction site, and how they do this is never explained or used again by the incompetent fuzz. At the Psyche operation the cops take down a few minutes later, they use special handcuffs, able to stop a man with super-strength from breaking out, but normal cuffs were used at the construction site to take away a man with powers in the scene directly before this one, allowing him to attempt an escape. Finally, workers at the side of the road seem to know that Lincoln Power is a front for a prominent criminal ring, but the cops seem to have no idea of this connection while chasing down their clearly labeled van just minutes later. With the addition of several depthless characters and a plot thread that not once succeeded in surprising me, I am left to consider the overall idea of the film that many are calling a “breath of fresh air.” This is laughable, given that the X-Men comics and movies have been operating on a remarkably similar blueprint to this one since the 60s.

So, why do people like this movie? I mentioned the strong production values, but I think that there are some other factors. The actors here generally do a good job with what they are given. This is especially true of Sung Kang’s performance as Officer Park, who comes through with the best performance of the film despite receiving some of the worst material to work with. I also really enjoy some aspects of the film’s world structure, such as the fact that in many cases, having a gun seems far better than having a superpower. This keeps things interesting, as the heavily militarized police aren’t overmatched by godlike supernatural abilities, a perspective that I think should be employed more in the superhero genre. However, I think the biggest reason the film is getting so much positive press is that we are all stuck inside right now, and don’t have a ton to do. I know I never would have watched this movie on a Friday night if I could leave my house. While Code 8 has not (and almost certainly will not) achieve Bird Box-esque meme status and the popularity that comes along with it, I hope the Amell cousins and the rest of those involved keep working with this idea. It is clearly a project born out of passion, and despite the thrashing I’ve given it, I bet Lincoln City would be an intriguing setting for a more grounded, focused film.

⭑⭑⭒⭒⭒ 2/5 stars

Make or Bake this Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // EMILY VENEZKY

Hot take: almond butter and other nut butters are ten times better than peanut butter. On a sandwich, mixed with chocolate, on fruit, eaten straight, and especially in these cookies. Most nut butter cookies recipes overdo it with butter and eggs, and then have three tablespoons of nut butter “for the taste.” But the oil and crunchy pieces in almond butter can hold together a cookie on their own and are so delicious already that they don’t need all those extra ingredients.

These simple cookies are especially easy right now when you are trying to eat out of your pantry and only restocking on perishables every two to three weeks. Don’t use up all your perishables in one go, instead, you can make these crumbly cookies multiple times. They are especially perfect with tea, ice cream, or a large glass of milk (oat milk recommended)!


Almond Butter Cookies

Ingredients:

¾ cup Chunky Almond Butter (smooth is fine too!)

3 tablespoons butter

¾ cup sugar

1 egg

1 cup All-Purpose Flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

⅛ teaspoon salt

¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

Steps:

  1. Heat oven to 375°F

  2. Mix almond butter, butter, and sugar with an electric mixer or whisk in a medium bowl until creamy. Beat in the egg.

  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt, and vanilla extract. Beat until smooth.

  4. Form into 1 tablespoon-sized balls and place them 2 inches apart on a baking sheet.

  5. Take a fork and make grid marks on the top of the cookies (for fanciness and the universal sign for baked goods with nuts).

  6. Bake 7 to 9 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool on pan for one minute, then move to a wire rack (or platter) to allow them to cool.

Make or Bake this Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // LIZ SUN

I was introduced to the concept of savory vegetarian pies about 10 years ago, when my older sister, Enid, had to babysit me during summer vacation.

She, like me, is a major foodie and cooking fanatic (she actually had a food blog of her own during college, affectionately punned “Lim Sun,” a combination of our last name and her friend’s who co-wrote recipes).

As an 11 year old, the idea of vegetables being tasty seemed ludicrous. Especially a vegetable PIE? As if! And yet, every afternoon that Enid whipped up a new creation, I ate every single bite on the plate. She had a gift. A persuasive gift, maybe, convincing a child to eat her veggies. But looking back, I truly appreciate the time we spent preparing the pie filling, lining the tin with dough, watching it crisp in the oven, and finally digging in during an episode of Modern Family or Doctor Who.

My sister had used a potato leek pie recipe, which when done right can be very delectable. However, I find the flavors a bit tricky to balance, so I decided to seek out a similar pie but different filling. And my god, is this just darn delicious! I made it about a week ago for my cousin and mom, who are now working from home. And what better way to endure the long weeks with your family than with some homemade pie?


Kokothikopita

Ingredients:

2 – 2.5 lbs zucchini (about 3 or 4)

~1 – 2 cups salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

3 – 4 garlic cloves, minced

½ cup chopped dill (dried is fine)

¼ cup combination of mint & parsley

1 cup crumbled feta

3 eggs, beaten

1 box phyllo dough (you’ll only need 12 sheets)

Pepper to taste

 

Steps:

1. Grate the zucchini or grind in a food processor and place in a colander.

2. Salt the zucchini and let drain for 1 hour, pressing down every 10 to 20 minutes to squeeze out liquid. After an hour, take handfuls of the zucchini and squeeze out any remaining moisture (this is easier done when the clumps are wrapped in a kitchen towel and you twist the towel to squeeze the liquid out), then place zucchini in a bowl.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat.

4. Add the garlic and onions, cook and stir until onions are tender (about 5 minutes).

5. Let the onions cool for a few minutes, then add to the zucchini.

6. Stir in herbs, feta, eggs, and pepper.

7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

8. Grease a 10-inch pie or cake pan.

9. Line the pie dish with 7 phyllo sheets, lightly brushing each piece with oil and turning the dish after adding a sheet so that the edges of phyllo drape evenly around the pan.

10. Add the pie filling and fold the draped edges in over the filling.

11. Layer the remaining 5 phyllo sheets on top, repeating the same process as before.

12. Stuff the edges into the sides of the pan, make a few slashes in the top layers, and brush with oil.

13. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown

14. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 20 minutes, then enjoy!

Notes:

  • If using store-bought phyllo dough, let it sit out for a few hours to defrost.

  • I didn’t have any mint to use but still tasted fine.

Make or Bake This Outbreak

Liz Sun and Emily Venezky have brought their baking skills home for this outbreak…

BY // EMILY VENEZKY

The first time I tasted a truly spectacular scone was at high tea at the Getty Villa. Everything at this tea was absolutely perfect, the beginning pastries were flaky, the sandwiches were super imaginative, they gave you a limitless selection of tea, and at the end they gave us the recipe for the Getty carrot cake, the original caretaker’s wife’s cake (which of course is delicious). As a high tea fanatic, I’d say it’s the best deal for a huge amount of delicious food and literal bottomless tea. Even though both the Getty Villa and Getty Center are closed, for the time being, I highly recommend getting a reservation for their high tea as soon as you can plan your life three months in advance again.

My first thought after I gobbled my scone was, “oh, I bet I could make this.” I knew I wanted that same buttery inside with the crisp exterior. So I started looking into cream scone recipes that I could add frozen fruit to because we happened to have a lot of frozen blueberries in the freezer at that moment. I combined a few aspects of recipes that had great reviews, mostly drawing from Bon Appetit’s cream scone recipe.

The first time I made them was on Christmas morning for my family and since then I’ve learned that if I ever let someone try these scones, they become a scone-loving zombie. That sounds like an exaggeration, but my boyfriend once tried to break into my dorm room when he knew I had extra scones and at one point my family was requesting them twice a week. I’ve refined this recipe after making it at least a dozen times and I’m excited to share all my tips and tricks for making scones with you.

These have been a real comfort to my family during social distancing. On our worst long days of feeling cooped up inside, we will sit out in the warm Los Angeles afternoon and have a scrumptious tea with these fresh scones.

I hope this brings some comfort to your home right now, at least until we drop another recipe next Tuesday!


Blueberry Cream Scones

Ingredients:

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface

½ cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 cup frozen blueberries

1 large egg, beaten to blend

1¼ cups half and half, plus more for brushing

Raw sugar (for sprinkling)

 

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 375°.

2. Whisk granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and 3 cups of flour in a large bowl to combine.

3. Break up the pieces of butter and combine them in with a pastry cutter. If you don’t have a pastry cutter, get your hands in there and break up the pieces of butter, letting the little pieces get covered in the dry mixture until there are pea-sized pieces of butter throughout.

4. Add in the frozen blueberries and mix them in with your hands.

5. Make a well in the center and drop in the egg and half and half. Slowly incorporate the dry ingredients with a fork until a shaggy dough begins to form. Lightly knead the dough with your hands till it comes together, don’t overwork it!

6. Split the dough in half, turning out half the dough on a lightly floured surface.

7. Pat into a 1″-thick round and cut into 8 wedges (like a pizza). Transfer the 8 wedges to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Do the same for the other half. You’ll probably need two baking sheets for all of them.

8. Paint all the wedges with half and half (I use a clean paintbrush) and sprinkle some raw sugar on top.

9. Bake scones until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.

Notes:

  • Most recipes call for heavy cream but I found half-and-half makes them lighter while still creamy.

  • This makes smaller scones, but if you don’t cut the dough in half you can make some very hearty scones too.

  • If you want to make these ahead of time you can place them on parchment-lined baking sheets and cover them in plastic wrap, just pull them out within two days to put the cream and sugar on them and then bake them.

  • Serve with extra butter, jam, and English breakfast tea!